De-stressing at the Workplace

A mental health educator suggests that finding a balance among the different aspects of life, setting boundaries and engaging in relaxing activities, while managing negative thinking, can help to de-stress.

Celine Lim Zhi Hooi of Penang Adventist Hospital (PAH) shared her insights during an online talk on ‘Mental Health Awareness at the Workplace’, which was jointly organised by WOU’s Student Engagement unit and PAH on 20 August 2023.

Lim is attached to the hospital’s Community Health Department.

She said one can cope with negative thinking by being present, applying the 10-10-10 rule, and imagining the worst-case scenario. She added, “Practise mindfulness. Pay attention to your five senses. Look around, smell, taste what you are consuming, listen, and squeeze a stress ball or feel your clothing.”

The 10-10-10 rule assesses how something will affect you in the future – in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years from now. It is useful when making difficult decisions or when dealing with negative thoughts.  She explained further, “For example, if you make a mistake at work and are scolded by your superior, you might initially feel bad and ashamed. Ask yourself how you would feel about the incident 10 minutes from now. If the same negative feelings persist, then consider how you’d feel in 10 months; by then, you may have moved past it.”

Tips for coping with negative thinking.

She continued, “Or if the incident is so serious that you still feel the negativity, ask yourself how you would feel in 10 years. This method reminds you to stay in the present and helps cope with negative thinking.” Lim also encouraged imagining ‘the worst-case scenario’ for whatever is bothering you to avoid ruminating on the issue.

She highlighted the eight aspects/categories of focus in the Wheel of Life: Health, Family and Friends, Finance, Personal Development, Spiritual, Love, Recreation,and Career.

In calling to find a balance between our job and personal life, she said, “When life is busy, or when you focus on only one aspect, like your career, you may find yourself off balance, especially when things go wrong in that part of your life.” She stressed, “There is more to life. You have your family, spirituality, and so forth. You achieve fulfilment and happiness only when you find the right balance among these categories.”

Finding the right balance at the different stages of our lives.

She suggested to Set Your Boundaries through time management, communicating your needs, and being assertive but not rigid. “Your time outside of your working hours is very important. It is what keeps you sane, and feeling mentally healthy,” she said.

She proposed allocating time for yourself, such as spending at least two hours a week doing things you like, and to take time off without feeling guilty when you feel overwhelmed.

Lim further stressed on communicating your needs, being clear on your expectations regarding work, and asking for feedback. “Be assertive Be firm on your boundaries, but not rigid, because there are times when we need to be flexible and compromise,” she remarked.

Prioritise your well-being by setting boundaries.

She advised to release stress by taking a walk after work, engaging in ‘slow’ hobbies like listening to soft music, playing guitar, reading or cooking, and taking a vacation or staycation.

When questioned about whether one should quit if dissatisfied or unhappy at work, she said, “Try to assess what is making you sad or dissatisfied. If the problem is unsolvable or outside your control to change the situation and you feel it is time, then ‘yes’.”

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